a film by Lindsey Merrison
Shot on film without a permit in Burma's capital, Yangon, FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES takes us on a journey into the nat cult and into the lives of several mediums.
In Burma, where spirit worship has survived both the triumph of Buddhism and the vagaries of a military dictatorship, a lively cult peopled by talented mediums, many of them homosexuals, makes life under one of the world's harshest regimes more bearable.
Guided by two lively Burmese women narrators in their early seventies, we enter an unknown world of moving stories, extravagant costume, ecstatic music and flamboyant dance where we discover the unique role the spirit mediums play in Burmese society, as social worker and even psychiatrist to people from all walks of life.
"Merrison has created a light-hearted but delightfully sharp narrative on the nats, their mediums and their believers. In Friends in High Places, legends, theatre, faith and reality blend into a drama that may inspire the viewer's heart and tickle his sense of humour. (...). Merrison's best find are the two old ladies, who, sitting and smoking on the floor of their small apartment, comment on life and the Nat cult with their unassuming but ironic remarks. Every now and then the film returns to them, as they produce, like a chorus, an unforgettable perspective on life in Burma." Miryam van Lier, Nyon International Documentary Film Festival Programme Notes.
"Just beneath the surface of Burma's dictatorship, a whole world is revealed to us which has real subversive power. The filmmakers' proximity to her protagonists is palpable during every single moment of the film and is also reflected in the superbly involved camerawork at astonishingly close quarters. (...) 'Friends in High Places' succeeds in revealing a compelling and utterly unknown world in moments that are in fact a form of recognition - a rare achievement indeed."
Bettina Kocher, Curator, Hamburg Television Workshop on the Developing World, 2001.
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